Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa

I've always liked Ed Young's artwork and so I looked forward to seeing this new book that he illustrated. It was a surprise to me that, this time, I think the story is stronger than the art. (It is adapted from a story by Lafcadio Hearn.)

The cover illustration is the best; tiny bits of flotsam give a sense of the enormity of the wave swamping a Japanese village. The orange colour of the title pops against the grey background and echoes the shape of the wave. Barring a few exceptions, I found the rest of the mixed media collage images too busy or too difficult to interpret the action or both. The two spreads that show Ojiisan and his grandson seen against the sky from a viewpoint slightly below the top of the mountain are very nice, however.

The story, as I've already said, is great. A man sacrifices his wealth in order to save hundreds of people. Kajikawa's writing is spare, yet evocative. "And presently an earthquake came -- a long, slow, spongy motion. The house rocked gently several times. Then all was still." I've never experienced an earthquake, but I was perfectly able to imagine it. The awesome, destructive power of nature is there too, when the tsunami hits. Might be scary for young children, especially if they live by the ocean.

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